Students over at the Marilyn I Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts have been working assiduously alongside director and writer Mike Griffin to present Pantalones Palace. A production where, “love and power collide in this fun-filled, fast- paced physical comedy.”
Entering the venue, you will find yourself seated in an intimate setting under the string lights cascading over the stage. You will also notice the charming ensemble seating, consisting of various pieces of furniture including couches, benches and chairs. This is done to capture the essence of the experience that you would’ve received in the 1500s in Italy. This is meant to facilitate direct contact and involvement with the audience. Historically, the audience was used in Commedia to connect, entice and even confide in during the production.
Director Mike Griffith has brought the historical craft of Commedia dell’Arte to contemporary society for all to relish in. Commedia dell’arte is a form of Italian comedy used in the early 1500s — 1750. This style of theatre includes three distinct features which are celebrated in Pantalones Palace. Those being, masks, improvisation and fixed types of characters. Griffith explains, “… over the last decade I have been incredibly passionate about Commedia dell’ Arte, it is a style that excites me and challenges me. No other form of theatre can make me laugh, think and reflect on the world I live in all in one evening.” The audience will also find this to be true when digesting Pantalones Palace.
Pantalones Palace unfolds the story of the greedy, business tycoon Pantalone, played by fourth year Dramatic Arts student, Adrian Marchesano, who crafts a scheme to build the world’s biggest casino in the Wooers’ Woods, much to the displeasure of the simplistic, humble Columbina. Columbia, played by Kaylyn Valdez—Scott, uses her wits, charms and love sick friends to take action and we follow this journey to see her where this ambition takes her.
Promising to provide thought provoking thematic ideas, laughs, and a thoroughly entertaining ensemble of actors, who are not only rich in talent but versatile and brilliant through their incorporation of physical comic inventions, slapstick comedy and even some degree of ‘acrobatics.’
Marchesano noted the most challenge aspect of encompassing the character of Pantalone is, “the physicality involved, (being) hunched over like an old man places some pressure on my quads on top of knowing lines, and keeping with the physicality (took) a few months to get used to.” Safe to say, he has conquered this challenge seamlessly in his brilliant portrayal of Pantalone. Marchesano wants the audience to take away that, “there is a big message (embedded in) this feminist play, as traditionally Commedia was one of the first types of theatre to feature women on stage. Mike is looking to see where the next step can go.”
Fellow castmate Kaylyn Valdez—Scott is most excited to showcase the characteristics of Columbina. She describes this as, “ Columbina is a woman who does not apologize. (She) is hardworking, brave and outspoken and does not let anyone tell her not to be those things.” Assistant student director Helena Ciuciura, noted that bringing the traditional aspects of Commedia to the contemporary stage involved, “.. eroding the misogyny riddled in traditional society, with Commedia it was an opportunity for the world to be overturned in the span of a couple hours.” Having the space where you can change the world within an hour is a big motivation behind this production. Challenges faced involved the improvisational style of Commedia, “… To be big, specific, honest and funny at the same time can be a tall order, as comedy is audience dependent… there are some changes to be made after the first show.” Ciuciura notes.
Tickets for Pantalones place are on sale through the First Ontario Performing Arts Centre, the show runs from Oct 27—Nov 3. At the Marilyn I Walker Theatre downtown St. Catharines.